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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II was laid to rest Friday in a 3 hour ceremony. I got up just in time (9:30 am) to watch the dignitaries arrive. The men were all dressed in dark suits and the women in black; with lacy mantillas draped over their head and shoulders. I have been following the events leading up to the Pope’s funeral all week long.

After the Pope died, the news was announced first via Vatican TV, then local and world TV and public service SMS messages. The minute the news was released pilgrims started to make the trek to Rome. When the Pope’s body was placed for public viewing, lines stretched for hours. It was quite amazing to watch literally millions of people file past the Pope as he lay in state.

Rome as a city began preparations for the funeral right away, people in lines were given water and blankets, cots were set up all over the city, in train stations, and schools, but in the end many thousands slept in parks and on the ground on camping pads. The weather that week was cool and cloudy at night but none were deterred. Security around the city was very tight, there was a no fly zone issued for the skies above Rome. Extra police, snipers, and surveillance personnel were distributed around St. Peter‘s Square. On the actual day of the funeral, no private cars were allowed to circulate around the city and most shops and offices were closed.

In the week preceding the funeral, I learned quite a bit about the rituals surrounding the death of the Pope and how his replacement is be chosen. His body lay in state for 4 days and he was buried on the fifth day. He was buried in three coffins, cypress, zinc and walnut. In his coffin, a white veil was placed on his face, along with a bag of coins minted by the Vatican, and short timeline of his life along with other things.

All the cardinals under the age of 80 (117 of them) will enter the Sistine chapel, after is it swept for bugs (audio devices) in what is known as “The Conclave” and vote on a new Pope. In the past, the cardinals were locked in and not allowed to emerge until a new Pope was chosen. In these modern times, the cardinals will be able to retire every night to special rooms. At the end of the voting day, if a Pope has not been chosen, the ballots are burned in a special fireplace. Black smoke billowing from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel signals no Pope has been chosen. If white smoke billows from the chimney because chemicals are added to the ballots; then Rome and the world knows a new Pontiff will emerge. He must accept the position and come to the Pope’s window where another cardinal announces “Habemus Papam” in Latin which means “We have a Pope.”

Although I am not Catholic, I must say that to watch the millions of pilgrims come from all over the world to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II and for them to shout his name “Giovanni Paulo” made me shiver all over. When they began to shout “Santo Subito”=“Sainthood Now!” I cried.


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